‘urban thread groove’ – urban proposal for espoo (se)

utg_teaserfor ‘urban thread groove’, a contribution to the europan 7 competition ‘sub-urban challenge, urban intensity and housing diversity‘, unsquare architects were collaborating with aha-architects for a porposal for a suburban site in the city of espoo in sweden.

The structure of Espoo seems typical for a town that has undergone several phases of urban development pursuing different architectural concepts and creating a distinct pattern in the now existing urban fabric. The result is a discontinuous urban sprawl. Most notably the modernist conception of separating different functions leaves the existing city centre, that mainly contains public functions and the train station, disconnected from the southern parts of the town. At the same time the separation of car traffic from pedestrian circulation, the latter running on elevated high walks, adds to the dysfunction of the city centre as a working urban environment. On the other hand the excellent means of public transport in the region suggest that pedestrian movement and use of public transport should be given priority over private transportation.

The immediate surroundings of the city centre consists of large scale housing schemes that, due to mass production, lack identity and fail to establish a sense of community. These operate at a rather large scale and create a lack of clearly defined urban spaces.

The project’s strategy is to tackle both of these two problems simultaneously by proposing a structures of high connectivity that gradually unfold between the existing tissues of the urban fabric and connect them with the redeveloped centre of Espoo. These multi-linear structures will create different degree’s of privacy and foster the development of local identities while still rooting them in their urban context.

The suggested pattern consists of 5 urban threads, each connecting Espoo’s city centre with other parts of the city. Each linear thread is treated independently and designed to establish a thread neighbourhood developing its own local identity and community once completed. Common continuous pathways running from one end to the other strongly root these threads in their surrounding, not only linking their own residential buildings together but also inviting the inhabitants of adjacent areas to use them to conveniently reach the city centre and the train station by walking or cycling. Motorized transportation is confined to the main roads. As the threads are gradually realized more and more parts of the town become attached to the centre.

The 5 Thread Neighbourhoods are organized as a series of smaller unit neighbourhoods, linked together by a common circulation system. A unit is the system’s smallest entity, designed to create a more private community among its inhabitants. A unit consists of two housing blocks arranged towards a common elevated courtyard designed as a landscape element and concealing a car park This courtyard in turn is part of the pathways running to the city’s centre, open on two sides, allowing for visual connections with the Nordic landscape.

All the five threads together will establish – once completed – a distinctive new town quarter, that in time will develop its own identity. As the threads will be used by all the city’s inhabitants to get into the city centre they will enhance communication and thus interlock existing communities throughout the city. At the same time they provide a solution for Espoo’s existing circulation problems. Finally the threads converge in the centre where they add new structures and facilities to the centre as the demand for them rises with Espoo’s increasing density. We suggest to continue the threads across the railway creating a partly elevated new public plaza that connects the two parts of the existing city centre.


location: city of espoo (se). client: europan 7 competition. date of submission: 06.2003. status: lost.

project team: unsquare architects. project architects: thomas hoppe, robert neumayr. guest star: andreas hawlik.

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